Arab and European ministers call for ‘irreversible’ two-state solution for Palestine

Tangible steps to establish a Palestinian state viewed as an essential component

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan at a meeting in Riyadh. Reuters
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Arab and European foreign ministers met in Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh, on Monday to discuss how to join forces on advancing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Saudi Arabia emphasised the need for an “irreversible track” to implement such a solution, one that would deliver the rights of the Palestinian people and also ensure the security of Israel.

“Concrete steps towards the realisation of a Palestinian state in the context of the two-state solution were discussed,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“An increased urgency to take such steps and the importance of co-ordinating positions were emphasised.

“The meeting also discussed the question of recognition of a Palestinian state by countries who have not yet done so, and the timing and context of such recognition.”

Israel is not ready to negotiate, nor is the US prepared to take the necessary leadership in the matter, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, one of the meeting's organisers, said afterwards.

“If we want to move this two-state solution forward it will not happen from the parties,” he said. “So, an Arab-European leadership is the best we can hope for.”

The meeting took place on the sidelines of a two-day World Economic Forum special meeting in Riyadh.

The conference was devoted largely to the war in the Gaza Strip, which was triggered by Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel.

Tangible and irreversible steps towards establishing a Palestinian state would be an essential component of any deal for a durable ceasefire, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said.

“The continued rejection of the two-state solution will inevitably undermine the security and stability of the region,” Prince Faisal said at the Arab-European meeting, which was also attended by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan.

The meeting emphasised the need to adopt a holistic approach to a two-state solution “in accordance with international law and agreed parameters, including the United Nations Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative”, the foreign ministry statement said.

“The main question is what really happens on the Palestinian issue,” Aziz Alghashian, who researches Saudi Arabia's foreign policy on Israel, told The National. “A credible peace process, irreversible steps – this is the kind of language that has been consistently coming out of the foreign ministry in Saudi Arabia.

“But what are these steps? How can we define these steps? These are yet to be defined. This illustrates that while there is momentum going forward on any deal, there is still some way to go on the fleshing out of the details,” Mr Alghashian said.

Normalise relations

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country was almost ready with a security package to offer Saudi Arabia if it normalises relations with Israel, as he sought incentives for Israel to support a Palestinian state.

Mr Blinken was visiting Riyadh on his seventh trip to the region since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, which has responded with a relentless offensive in Gaza that has drawn global criticism.

Prince Faisal, who met Mr Blinken in Riyadh, also said US-Saudi agreements were “very, very close” and “most of the work has already been done”.

But the Saudi foreign minister repeated his government's insistence that a pathway to a Palestinian state was “the only way it's going to work”.

Updated: April 30, 2024, 3:53 PM